Thursday, 27 May 2010

Poet's Corner

The flavour of parallel: poems by Nigel Humphreys

This collection of sixty poems is the second published by Arbor Vitae Press by this poet (the first being The Hawk's Mewl). His poems work on me because Nigel Humphreys shares my view that the essence of the universe resides at the interface between science and spirituality. Too many scientists deny the spiritual; too many people of religion eschew science. Poets' vision is often way ahead of conventional wisdom; centuries later their vision is proved to be correct.

Humphreys' poems click with universal themes; the human condition - ageing, love; nature, the arts - Tchaikovsky, Coleridge and Van Gogh - things we should be able to identify with, and then the poetry works. Spirit of place is another thread that runs through this collection; Snowdonia, Shetlands, London, Madrid; a few words that conjure a sense of awareness of being there.

He has a memorable turn of phrase: "a full cream afternoon", "an invasive rash of tenderness", (a dragonfly's) "hairgrip picklock legs", "the first crisp sky of Spring", "agonising over each stroke/as to a young queen's neck"; essential in any poet's armoury, a mind in restless search for a new understanding of our reality through metaphor.

The human condition, meat to any any poet's scalpel:
last week or the week before he had visitors: his own genes
hosted in matryoshki figures,
he worried them back to their remote controls.

since then
no one
[from Sunday afternoon on Barry Island - Chapelview Residential Home]

Or, from Embers, where Science steps in:

molecular drift? did the magnet
dull with distance and new
polarity reverse the old one?

He asks of an old flame.

but we're those other people now
who never danced

His appreciation of the universe as both scientific and spiritual is what I admire most about Humphrey's works. Tomorrow's zeitgeist. Words such as gene, atom, proton, quark, molecule rub shoulder with saints, churches, cardinals, baptism and angels. This I like. Here, from the physics of degeneracy:
the fine tuning of all those
physical constants
masquerading as
and just for
Haven't you often thought just that, yet been unable to put into such eloquent words?
The flavour of parallel is available from Arbor Vitae press, BM Spellbound, London WC1N 3XX, price ₤7.99, plus ₤1.25 postage & packing. Thanks to Jonathan Wood for sending me the book.
[And while on the subject of literature, a joke for my bilingual readers: Moni's current set text (lektura) for Polish is Dostoyevsky's Zbrodnia i kara. Eddie, thinking it was a translation of a book originally written in English, asked: "So what was the crime of Icarus?"]

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